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Palm Springs’ heyday may have begun with the early movie and TV stars, but the town’s gay renaissance began in the ‘80s, when gay Angelenos started buying the mid-century modern homes in a then seedy downtown. Today, Palm Springs is a stylish and popular weekend getaway from September through May, and never more glorious than it is right now. When LA is a “chilly” 68-70° in the winter and spring, Angelenos head to sunny Palm Springs for warm swimming pool weather. It’s a popular gay destination, but it’s a relatively small city, with a population of under 50,000 residents. The few gay bars and clubs it has are often deserted midweek, even in season, and when the temperature soars in the summer, the town really slows down.
But that slow pace is at the heart of Palm Springs’ appeal. This is a place to go when you want to do little more than relax by the pool, under a stunning vista of mountains and desert. There’s also tennis, golf, and just enough other active, cultural, outdoors and shopping distractions for those who can’t sit still, and a large concentration of mid-century modern design, making it a world capital for those who share that fetish.
If you want to see the town packed to its Modernist gills with gays, then head there during its top homo event: the White Party, April 24-27, a long-running annual party that bills itself as the world’s largest gay music festival, and whose Sunday afternoon T dance is just fabulous. Before you head to the desert, be sure to review our top picks below and DOWNLOAD a PDF of our recently updated Palm Springs Travel Guide, for recently updated recommendations on where to stay, eat, play/meet for FREE. Oh, and pack plenty of sunblock!
1. Pura Vida: This (clothing-required) gay guesthouse is the most stylish and modern in all of Palm Springs. Opened in late 2011, the rooms are large and flooded with ambient light, have travertine floors, comfortable king sized beds that are positioned in front of Fantasy Glow fireplaces and 40-inch flat screen TVs. The sparkling pool offers stunning views of the mountains.
2. Palm Springs Art Museum: This impressive 150,000 square foot facility boasts major collections of modern, contemporary, Native American and Western art, including two outdoor sculpture gardens. Admission is free every Thursday from 4-8pm, and the second Sunday of the month.
3. Happy hour: So many happy hours in this boozy little gay oasis, so little time! We love two in particular. Oscar’s Café and Bar is a fun bar with live music and drag performances. Its Sunday tea dance gets visitors and locals packing the place. We also never miss Wang's In The Desert, still the most popular happy hour in town (Friday afternoons). Come thirsty not hungry: Wang's is known for its cocktails and scene not the food!
4. Hacienda Cantina & Beach Club: This stylish yet casual venue features a restaurant with indoor and outside dining, a bar and a pool with lounge chairs and cabanas for rent for reasonable prices. Hot locals pack the thumping pool area on weekends. It’s located along side the main commercial drive in Palm Springs but faces the soaring mountains. Taco Tuesdays are particularly popular (the tacos are interesting and inexpensive). Day or night, it’s a little bit of Vegas in Palm Springs.
5. Ruben and Ozzy’s Oyster Bar and Grill: Oysters in the desert?! Sounds odd but during a recent visit this was the best meal we had. Ruben and Ozzy, the two brothers who own and run this establishment, have had long careers in the Greater Palm Springs area. They feature globally influenced seafood dishes (with fish tacos particularly popular). Carnivores, fret not: There are also excellent steaks.
Click here to download more great Palm Springs recommendations in our FREE PDF insiders guide.